The blockchain sector is experiencing significant growth in Europe. To seize the opportunities it presents, France, Germany, and the United States are implementing influential strategies through powerful lobbying groups. Both public and private actors are organizing themselves to exert pressure on European institutions. While the French ecosystem is concentrated and closed, Germany, being more decentralized and permeable, is influenced by the United States.
The Potential of Blockchain Technology
Blockchain technology enables the creation of decentralized and secure registers. It has the potential to revolutionize various sectors, including finance, data management, and currency. With an estimated value of over $1.431 trillion by 2030, the technological and economic interests involved justify the ongoing power games. The primary battleground for these interests is legislation, which represents a crucial area of action.
Key Players in Europe
In Europe, three major players stand out: France, Germany, and the United States. Each country has adopted a different strategy. France has chosen a centralized and closed model, while Germany has embraced a decentralized federal model where private initiatives are flourishing. The United States operates through proxies.
The Multilayered European Lobby
The European Union is leading various blockchain research projects, involving different regional actors with varying degrees of involvement in its institutions. Concerning Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), the Eurosystème, under the auspices of the European Union, has brought together several national central banks, such as the Banque de France, in active collaboration with commercial banks. However, these actors also organize themselves independently, collaborating with both private and public entities. The Association of German Banks (Bundesverband deutscher Banken) is a notable example.
Around the EU, two think tanks, the Digital Euro Association (DEA) and Blockchain for Europe, concentrate almost all the associations and groups from member states wishing to participate in research projects. These two organizations bring together actors from France, Germany, the UK, the US, and other EU member and non-member countries. They position themselves as independent, pro-European, and pro-regulation. While these two think tanks focus on different topics (CBDCs and blockchain), they maintain a partnership.
France: Concentrated and Closed Ecosystem
The French ecosystem revolves around a single actor, the Association for the Development of Digital Assets (ADAN), which comprises 181 French blockchain companies. ADAN follows a traditional centralized model and serves as the main gateway to the EU for French enterprises. Its primary collaborations are with Blockchain for Europe and The European Crypto Initiative, a regional Franco-German think tank. The French ecosystem is relatively closed, with limited connections to other European and non-European actors. However, an attempt to collaborate with Germany through the European Crypto Initiative was made. The initiative’s steering committee consists of the ADAN director and the founder of Blockchain Bundesverband.
The European Crypto Initiative collaborates directly with Blockchain Bundesverband and the European Blockchain Association. Other actors, such as the French Federation of Blockchain Professionals and the Alliance Blockchain France, primarily operate at the national level. French actors have limited cooperation with foreign entities. While the isolation protects France from external influence, particularly from the United States, it also deprives it of valuable support. Nevertheless, private initiatives such as Ledger, which collaborates with the US, Germany, Switzerland, and other countries, continue to thrive. However, few French companies directly collaborate with European institutions and think tanks.
Germany: A Proactive Stance
The German ecosystem reflects the country’s organizational structure. Following a federal model, regions form associations such as the Blockchain Association Schleswig-Holstein, the Hanseatic Blockchain Institute, and the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management Blockchain Center. These associations have direct relationships with European institutions and think tanks while also forming national alliances. The German national ecosystem consists of four key players: Bundesdruckerei Group (BDR), which primarily includes public enterprises; the International Token Standardization Association (ITSA), focusing on normative research; the European Blockchain Association; and Blockchain Bundesverband, which is equivalent to ADAN but with fewer actors.
The German ecosystem benefits from a greater variety of actors compared to France and has stronger interconnections. Moreover, collaborations with actors from different sectors, such as the Interplanetary Database Foundation (IPDB) and the Coalition of Automated Legal Application (COALA), further enhance Germany’s blockchain deployment. However, this openness also entails risks, as external powers like the United States and Saudi Arabia infiltrate the ecosystem. Caizcoin Islamic Blockchain, a Saudi think tank, directly collaborates with three major German lobbies: ITSA, EBA, and IPDB.
The United States: Influence by Proxy
The United States plays a significant role in shaping and organizing various European forces. They have close ties to the German ecosystem, engaging directly with the DEA and Blockchain for Europe through the CBDC Think Tank, which, in turn, has connections to the 101 Blockchain Think Tank. This think tank’s clients include the Federal Reserve, IBM, PWC, Goldman Sachs, Sanofi, JP Morgan, and others. Additionally, the United States collaborates with the German ecosystem through private initiatives affiliated with regional groups (RMI, Blockchain solution, Hedera Hasgraph), consulting firms that assist in organizing alliances (O’Reilly, working with the Schleswig-Holstein group), and American think tanks with direct subsidiaries in Germany (Blockchain Research Institute and its German subsidiary). Collaboration also extends to Germany’s engagement with supranational groups focusing on communication technologies, particularly with the COALA group.
The Need for European Regulation
The creation of European regulation is necessary for the region to compete with other nations. South Korea, China, the United States, and Japan have all launched their own regulatory projects. While European countries compete in terms of legislative orientation and standards, the dynamism observed in the various influencing groups indicates a healthy ecosystem. Addressing the challenges associated with the development of the blockchain and cryptocurrency markets is crucial, and Europe has recognized this need. However, the pressure from Asian players (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) is growing stronger. The rapid growth of their markets allows them to expand their services within Europe.
Tom Charpentier for the Club Data of AEGE